OnVideo: SEPTEMBER's Top Movies
BEHIND THE CANDELABRABefore Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world-renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage. In summer 1977, handsome young stranger Scott Thorson walked into his dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair. Based on Thorson's tell-all memoir "Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace," the film is directed by Steven Soderbergh and features electrifying performances by Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson. During its premiere, the film became one of HBO's most watched original films in nearly 10 years ... and has come in for deservedly high praise from critics everywhere. The film originally was rejected by the Hollywood studios and Soderbergh went to HBO to raise the $5 million (really, really low by today's standards) to make the film, which premiered at this year's Cannes International Film Festival to rave reviews.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. Stars: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Debbie Reynolds, Dan Aykroyd, Paul Reiser. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: TV-MA, 118 min., Bio-Drama, HBO. Available: 9/17.
THE BLING RINGIn the fame-obsessed world of Los Angeles, a group of teenagers embark on a disturbing crime-spree in the Hollywood hills. Based on true events, the group, who were fixated on the glamorous life, tracked their celebrity targets online, and stole more than $3 million in luxury goods from their homes. Their victims included Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Rachel Bilson, and the gang became known in the media as "The Bling Ring." Director Sofia Coppola takes us inside the world of these teens, where their youthful naivete and excitement is amplified by today's culture of celebrity and luxury brand obsession. The members of the Bling Ring introduce us to temptations that any teenager would find hard to resist. And what starts out as youthful fun spins out of control, revealing a sobering view of our modern culture. Based on Nancy Jo Sales' Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins." Extras: "Behind the Bling" making-of featurette, "Scene of the Crime with Paris Hilton" featurette, "Tabloid Culture: A Master Class Featuring Nancy Jo Sales" (who wrote the Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins") featurette, theatrical trailer.
Director: Sofia Coppola. Stars: Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Katie Chang, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $5.458 million, Lionsgate. Available: 9/17.
CHASING ICEIn the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth's changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk. This is the story of one man's mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in sub zero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. "Chasing Ice" depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.
DISCONNECTA drama centered on a group of people searching for human connections in today's wired world, exploring the consequences of modern technology and how it affects and defines our daily relationships. The film follows a collection of characters: a hard-working lawyer attached to his cell phone who can't find the time to communicate with his family; a couple drawn into a dangerous situation when their secrets are exposed online; a widowed ex-cop struggling to raise a mischievous son who cyber-bullies a classmate; and an ambitious journalist seeing a career-making story in a teen who performs on an adult-only site. They are strangers, neighbors and colleagues, and their stories collide.
Director: Henry Alex Rubin. Stars: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis,, Frank Grillo, Michael Nyqvist, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skarsgard. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 115 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.435 million, Lionsgate. Available: 9/17.
THE EASTSarah Moss (Brit Marling) is a brilliant operative for an elite private intelligence firm whose top objective is to ruthlessly protect the interests of their A-list corporate clientele. She is assigned to go undercover to infiltrate an anarchist collective known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. Living amongst them in an effort to get closer to their members, Sarah finds herself unexpectedly torn between two worlds as she starts to fall in love with the group's charismatic leader (Alexander Skarsgard), finding her life and her priorities irrevocably changed.
Director: Zal Batmanglij. Stars: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Julia Ormond, Patricia Clarkson, Shiloh Fernandez. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 117 min.,Thriller, Box office gross: $1.640 million, Fox. Available: 9/17.
FROM UP ON POPPY HILLFrom the legendary and highly celebrated Studio Ghibli comes this uniquely inspired and highly anticipated coming-of-age story from Goro Miyazaki and Hayao Miyazaki. Set in Yokohama in 1963, this lovingly hand-drawn film centers on Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) and Shun (voiced by Anton Yelchin) and the budding romance that develops as they join forces to save their high school's ramshackle clubhouse from demolition. The top-grossing Japanese film of 2011 and winner of the Japan Academy Prize for Animation, "From Up on Poppy Hill" captures the innocence of new love as well as the beauty of Yokohama's harbor and lush surroundings. With its rich color palette, stunning exteriors, sun-drenched gardens, bustling cityscapes and painterly detail, "From Up on Poppy Hill" provides a pure, sincere, and nuanced evocation of the past, and marks yet another creative triumph for Studio Ghibli.
THE ICEMANInspired by actual events, "The Iceman" follows notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men. Appearing to be living the American dream as a devoted husband and father, in reality Kuklinski was a ruthless killer-for-hire. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters had any clue about his real profession. Based on the book, "The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer," by Anthony Bruno.
Director: Ariel Vromen. Stars: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, Danny Abeckaser, Stephen Dorff, James Franco. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 105 min., Crime Thriller, Box office gross: $1.902 million, Millennium Films. Available: 9/03.
IRON MAN 3"Iron Man 3" pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
Director: Shane Black. Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, James Badge Dale, Yvonne Zima. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 130 min., Action Adventure, Box office gross: $403.157 million, Disney. Available: 9/24.
LOVE IS ALL YOU NEEDA hairdresser who has lost her hair to cancer finds out her husband is having an affair, travels to Italy for her daughter's wedding and meets a widower who still blames the world for the loss of his wife. Philip (Pierce Brosnan), an Englishman living in Denmark, is a middle-aged widower and estranged single father. Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is a Danish hairdresser who's just been left by her husband for a younger woman. The fates of these two souls are about to intertwine as they embark for a trip to Italy to attend the wedding of Patrick and Astrid, Philip's son and Ida's daughter. It's a story about second chances, seeking love and having the courage to change your life -- even when you think it’s too late. Extras: Commentary with Pierce Brosnan and director Susanne Bier; Q&A with Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen; behind-the-scenes featurette with Dyrholm, as well as interviews with the cast at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.
Director: Susanne Bier. Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Sebastian Jessen, Molly Blixt Egelind. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 116 min., Romantic Comedy, Box office gross: $1.537 million, Sony. Available: 9/10.
NOW YOU SEE ME"The Four Horsemen," a super-team of the world's greatest illusionists, pull off a series of daring heists while evading a squad of FBI agents and an Interpol detective trying to stop them before their most daring final trick. The Four Horsemen, a magic super-group led by the charismatic J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), perform a pair of high-tech, high-profile magic shows. First amazing audiences by remotely robbing a Paris bank while in Las Vegas, and then exposing a white-collar criminal and funneling his millions into the audience members' bank accounts, baffling the authorities. FBI Special Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is determined to make the magicians pay for their crimes -- and to stop them before they pull off what promises to be an even more audacious heist. But he's forced to partner with Alma (Melanie Laurent), an Interpol detective about whom he is instantly suspicious. Out of desperation, he turns to a famed magic debunker, who claims the Paris bank trick was actually a meticulously planned illusion. Dylan and Alma begin to wonder if the Horsemen have an outside point person. If so, finding him (or her) would be the key to ending the magicians' crime spree. But who could it be? Or…could it really be ... magic?
Director: Louis Leterrier. Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $113.283 million, Lionsgate. Available: 9/03.
PEEPLESSparks fly when Grace (Kerry Washington) takes off for the preppy Peeples' annual reunion in the Hamptons the very weekend her boyfriend Wade Walker (Craig Robinson) was going to propose. Undeterred, Wade heads to the Hamptons to surprise her. He might be a fish-out-of-water among this seemingly perfect East Coast clan, but he's not about to let himself flounder. Instead, in a wild weekend of fun, dysfunction and hilarious surprises, Wade and Grace discover there's room for all kinds of Peeples in this family, no matter their differences
Director: Tina Gordon Chism. Stars: Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, Tyler James Williams, Kali Hawk, Malcolm Barrett, S. Epatha Merkerson, Melvin Van Peebles, Diahann Carroll, Kimrie Lewis-Davis. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 95 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $9.123 million, Lionsgate. Available: 9/10.
ROOM 237After the box office failure of "Barry Lyndon," Stanley Kubrick decided to embark on a project that might have more commercial appeal. "The Shining," Stephen King's biggest critical and commercial success yet, seemed like a perfect vehicle. After an arduous production, Kubrick's film received a wide release in the summer of 1980; the reviews were mixed, but the box office, after a slow start, eventually picked up. End of story? Hardly. In the 30 years since the film's release, a considerable cult of "Shining" devotees has emerged, fans who claim to have decoded the film's secret messages addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. Rodney Ascher's wry and provocative Room 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with cultists and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick's still-controversial classic. In this documentary, we hear from people who have developed complex theories about the film and believe they have decoded the hidden symbols and messages buried in the late director's unforgettable shocker, in which a family man (played by Jack Nicholson) descends into madness while serving as the off-season caretaker of a deserted old hotel. Carefully examining "The Shining" inside and out, and forwards and backwards, "Room 237" is equal parts captivating, provocative and pure pleasure. It gives voice to the fans and scholars who espouse these theories, reworking Kubrick's film to match their ideas and intercutting it with layers of dreamlike imagery to illustrate their streams of consciousness. Sometimes outrageous, always engaging, the words of the interviewees are given full force by Ascher's compelling vision.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESSWhen the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving the world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As the Enterprise is propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
Director: J.J. Abrams.. Stars: John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 132 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $220.561 million, Paramount. Available: 9/10.
STORIES WE TELLIn this inspired new film, Oscar-nominated actor-writer-director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story. An official selection of the Sundance, Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals and winner of Best Documentary at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, "Stories We Tell" is at its core a deeply personal film about the nature of truth and memory, and how personal narratives shape and define both individuals and families.
UNFINISHED SONG (AKA SONG FOR MARION)Arthur (Terence Stamp), a curmudgeonly old soul, is perfectly content with his reliable daily routine until his beloved wife (Vanessa Redgrave) introduces him to a spirited local singing group led by the youthful and charming Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton). Despite his initial resistance, this unexpected friendship leads to Arthur's discovery of music that revitalizes his passion for new adventures and reconnects him with the people who matter most. Extras: Outtakes, deleted scenes.
Director: Paul Andrew Williams. Stars: Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Anne Reid, Calita Rainford. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 93 min., Comedy Drama, Box office gross: $1.509 million, The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay. Available: 9/24.
WORLD WAR ZThe story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Based on the best-selling book by Max Brooks. Blu-ray Extras: Unrated cut -- packed with thrills and action too intense for theaters -- as well as the theatrical cut; "Origins" behind-the-scenes featurette; "Looking to Science" featurette explores the scientific realities of Zombie behavior in nature and Zombies in literature and film; four-part "WWZ: Production" featurette: "Outbreak" behind-the-scenes look at the film's breathtaking first attack in Philadelphia, "The Journey Begins" behind-the-scenes of the dramatic escape in South Korea, "Behind the Wall" explores the epic scene in Jerusalem, and "Camouflage" behind-the-scenes of the final confrontation with the Zombies.
Director: Marc Forster. Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Elyes Gabel, Fana Mokoena, Matthew Fox, Ludi Boeken, David Morse. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min., Horror-Thriller, Box office gross: $192.660 million, Paramount. Available: 9/17.
All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray Player, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.
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September 1, 2013